Ensure easy access, sustainability of smart cities: Experts

Kolkata, Aug 27 (IANS) Though state capital Kolkata has been left out, four planned cities in West Bengal have been listed by the central government on Thursday as nominee to its ambitious smart city project which experts say should aim to be socially inclusive and sustainable.

Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu released the list on Thursday. Cities from Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra dominated the list of probable smart cities, with 13, 12 and 10 being nominated from these states respectively.

New Town, Bidhannagar, Durgapur, Haldia are the hopefuls in Bengal.

But architectural expert Madhumita Roy, who is leading the heritage Writers’ Building restoration project, is hopeful Kolkata will be included soon.

“The other cities are planned cities so baseline data is easily available, whereas Kolkata has grown organically. Eventually, I am hopeful, it will be included,” Roy, head of the Jadavpur University’s department of architecture, told IANS.

She said successful implementation of the project means making services accessible to everyone.

“Nowadays, people in the rural areas are also smart – they are using smartphones too. So they will be able to use technologies and IT services but the only thing is all facilities must be easily accessible for all and user-friendly,” she observed.

Urban economic expert Mahalaya Chatterjee, who has recently published a paper on the economic aspects of smart cities in India, cautioned against the dependence on high-end service activities versus a “trading and manufacturing hub” which has been the basis of emergence of small Indian towns.

“The original idea about manufacturing and trading hub is totally missing here. The economic basis of smart cities is going to be the tertiary sector, especially high-end service activities,” Chatterjee, associate professor, Centre for Urban Economic Studies in Calcutta University’s economics department, told IANS.

She said this goes against Indian economic reality.

“The emergence of small towns is mostly due to small manufacturing activities done by private entrepreneurs. On the other hand, this high end service sector will be mainly dependent on the foreign demands and totally divorced from local demand,” she said.

Since urban sustainability is linked to economic base, emphasis must be laid on the long-term sustainability, she said.

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